Since 9/11, the Saudi royal family has spent millions of dollars to improve its image worldwide. This includes a recent ad campaign in The New Republic, which are “Sponsored by the People of Saudi Arabia – Allies Against Terrorism.” Another full-page ad appeared in USA Today, stating, “For far too long, rumors have been accepted as truth…The 9/11 Commission Report finally reveal[ed] the facts.” However, despite the Saudi PR efforts, which claim that the report completely vindicates Saudi Arabia, it in fact states that Saudi Arabia is "a problematic ally in combating Islamic extremism" and that "significant problems remained" regarding its role in the war against terror.
Another attempt by the Saudis to improve their image is the convening of an international conference against terrorism to be held in Riyadh on February 5-8. According to Saudi government sources, 43 countries, and several leading NGOs will attend. Prince Turki Ibn Muhammad Bin Saud Al-Kabir, an assistant undersecretary at the Foreign Ministry said, “We have invited all countries that have suffered from terrorism…and all have agreed to take part.”
The conference was initially announced at the UN General Assembly in September by Saudi Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs Mizar Midani. When asked why Israel was not invited, he accused the Jewish state of “being responsible for extremism in the region.”
Meanwhile, the Iranian Republic News Agency reported that Iranian President Muhammad Khatami will be attending. Prince Al-Kabir, who is the chairman of the conference, told the Saudi Gazette on November 3 that a large contingent from the U.S. will also attend.
Whereas the conference’s stated goal is to “eradicate the roots and causes of terrorism,” the Saudi royal family’s government has in fact done very little to pursue this – outside of the Kingdom. The Saudi war on terror has exclusively focused on fighting only the wing of al-Qaeda within Saudi Arabia. As Saudi writers, TV commentators, professors, clerics, and members of the royal family often explain, Jihad is acceptable as long as it is not within or against the Kingdom.
Writing in the Saudi daily Al-Riyadh on April 26, 2004, Abdul Waheed Al-Humaid referred to the attacks of that week in the Saudi capitol Riyadh as unjustifiable terrorism. He explained, however, “if there are people who want to wage Jihad and fight the enemy, there are more than a thousand [legitimate] ways to do so.”
Saudi Sheikh Abdallah Al-Muslih, Chairman of the Commission on Scientific Signs in the Koran, Sunna of the Muslim World League, and former Dean of Islamic Law in the Saudi city of Abha appeared on Iqra TV on May 20th, stating that jihad - inside the Kingdom - is not allowed. He also addressed the current debate amongst leading Saudi clerics about suicide bombings against U.S. troops. He cited teachings from Islamic history giving precedents to such actions that as long as soldiers from Dar Al-Harb (countries outside Muslim rule) are targeted, “there is nothing wrong with suicide attacks if they cause great damage to the enemy.” Al-Muslih ended by emphasizing, “[When] we speak of [attacks] in Muslim countries, such as Saudi Arabia…this is forbidden…This is the land of the Muslims. We must never do this in a Muslim country.”
Saudi support of jihad outside the Kingdom and against U.S. troops was recently the subject of a fatwa by 26 leading Saudi religious scholars from the most prominent universities in the Kingdom. According to the fatwa, released in November, killing U.S. soldiers in Iraq is allowed. The fatwa, which came one month before the suicide attack by a Saudi bomber on an American mess hall in Mosul that killed 14 U.S. soldiers, stated: “Fighting the occupiers is a religious duty…It is a jihad to push back the assailants…Resistance is a legitimate right."
The Saudi embassy in Washington, D.C., tried to distance itself from the fatwa. However, according to Saudi law, the government is the only body that can lawfully issue such a fatwa. The unauthorized religious authorities who sanctioned the killing of U.S. troops have yet to be punished.
A Saudi prince, Amr Al-Faisal, responded to the fatwa in Arab News on December 6 by explaining that the 26 scholars don’t represent official Saudi policy, but that they do represent “a significant opinion in the Muslim world on the proper manner for dealing with foreign occupiers in Iraq.” Prince Amr added, “U.S. forces in Iraq are not a group of friendly boy scouts out to help elderly Iraqi ladies cross Baghdad streets."
In the coming weeks, this column will expose Saudi Arabia’s continual embrace of jihad, as well as its support of a culture of hatred against the West, Christians, and of course Jews.
Unless the Saudi terror conference addresses these issues, the upcoming columns will explain why the U.S. should not take part in the Saudi Arabia's February conference on terrorism.
Steven Stalinsky is Executive Director of The Middle East Media Research Institute.